Saturday, March 31, 2012

Disney Fantasy Sets Out on Inaugural Voyage Today after Christening in NYC

Disney has done it again. The new Disney Fantasy cruise ship, which made a christening stop in New York City after its transatlantic crossing from Germany a month ago, will begin service from Florida today. Although we were wowed by the inaugural evening with appearances by Mariah Carey (who christened the ship), Neil Patrick Harris and Jerry Seinfeld (who introduced the evening’s frivolity), Mayor Bloomberg, and cameos by Allen Cummings and Nancy Grace (remember, Dancing with the Stars from last year?), it’s the ship itself that elicited the oohs and ahs all night long. How about an entrance into a 1920s-30s Art Nouveau-inspired lobby with an oversized statue of Minnie Mouse, cast in bronze and perfect for the quintessential Disney souvenir photo, or a giant multi-color glass chandelier.... for starters?

The Imagineers have really outdone themselves. There’s an interactive Muppets Mystery quest that leads you throughout the boat as you look for clues to solve one of several mysteries. The game studio will have you dancing over light beams on the Magic PlayFloor and engaging in on-screen banter with Stitch of Lilo and Stitch fame. Imagination becomes reality when little ones are transformed into princesses and pirates at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and The Pirates Boutique. And, of course, there are lots of Disney “characters” strolling through the boat to surprise you at any given moment. Care for a dance with Donald or a moment with Mickey? My favorite? My role as part of the Midship Detective Agency to search out the Muppet bad guy.

The dining room that will capture your imagination is the Animator's Palate, where your own black-and-white stick figure drawing comes to life as part of a musical revue on the restaurant’s walls. Think Fantasia set to dinner. The entire family will also enjoy two new Broadway-style shows, "Wishes," about best friends, and "Disney's Aladdin -- A Musical Spectacular." When it's time to escape the kids, the adults have Europa, a series of bars and venues themed around four European countries.

During the day, the outdoor deck has many options for water and play entertainment for all ages. Older kids (and adults) will love the basketball court, miniature golf, and the AquaDuck, a 765-foot-long water coaster. There are water play areas for younger kids at the AquaLab, and a private pool area for adults known as Satellite Falls. There’s plenty of shade, too, to protect everyone on some of the longer ocean-crossing days.

The 2500-passenger Disney Fantasy sails from Port Canaveral, Florida on two seven-day itineraries, one including St. Maarten and St. Thomas, and the other visiting Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, and Cozunel. Both visit Disney's own Castaway Cay in the Bahamas for a day of barbeque, water sports and spa. Cruises are scheduled year-round. For those of us in New York City, now that we've had a taste of having a Disney cruise ship in port (it was quite a sight to behold on the Hudson River), we want more. There will be 2-day cruises to nowhere -- a perfect Disney cruise sampler -- starting this summer, as well as longer sailings to Canada and the Bahamas on the Disney Magic.

You can find out more, by visiting

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Garment Care Travel Tips -- How to Deal with Fashion Emergencies on the Road

If you’re like me and you travel a lot, odds are you’ve found yourself in some pretty sticky situations. What I’m referring to are those times when you have only one outfit to wear and there’s no dry cleaner or valet in sight. Or your baby has dumped a bowl of cereal all over himself (and possibly you).

Here are a few travel tips for garment care from my favorite NYC cleaners, Jeeves. They’re my go-to for all sorts of miracles.

Blood stains can be removed by using a Q-tip moistened with your own saliva. The enzymes present in YOUR saliva helps remove YOUR blood stain.

Oil stains can sometimes be removed by applying a small amount of baby powder or corn starch to the stained area. Let the powder sit on the stain for about 15 minutes and then brush off.

Fashion tape should be in your travel kit. This will allow you to fix falling hems, gaping blouses and a whole host of issues without a needle and thread.

For more tips, check out – it’s become my daily Bible.

Friday, March 23, 2012

In the Mood for a Great Pastrami? Eisenberg's is the Place

I just had to share this video of my favorite non-trendy sandwich shop in New York City, Eisenberg's. Perfect meal: hot pastrami on rye, fountain Coke (it's sweeter than a Coke from a can or bottle, unless it's a Mexican one), and garlic pickles. Add your choice of mustard or Russian on the sandwich, and life is definitely good. Feeling adventurous? Try the corned beef or tongue. Going strong since 1929. 174 Fifth Avenue, New York City,

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo: a Double Dose of Mexico Vacation Magic

About 15 years ago, my husband and I discovered Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Somewhat remote (from the East coast) and naturally beautiful, the area became one of our favorite vacation places, with or without kids.

Without kids in tow, no question, our resort of choice is La Casa Que Canta in Zihua. It’s incredibly private and sexy with its cliffside perch and no-holds-barred romantic ambiance, and its rooms “sing” with Mexican charm, each one fittingly named for a Spanish song. Besides its striking terraced architecture and beautiful crafts and landscaping, there’s a fresh-water infinity pool that cascades towards Playa la Ropa, and a second pool located in a private alcove further down the hill. The Luz de Luna tequila bar overlooking Zihuatanejo Bay is a must for sunset, as are the resort’s incredible lime pancakes for breakfast.

Photos: La Casa Que Canta, Club Med Ixtapa Pacific

"Downtown” Zihuatanejo -- a small, authentic fishing village -- has restaurants that serve up fish tacos that couldn’t be fresher. Try La Sirena Gorda along the water, no matter how long the wait. A few blocks away, the arts market sells masks from Guerrero and other colorful Mexican crafts including hammocks, wooden items and hand-painted sculptures. You can barter, if you like, but the prices are already very reasonable.

But, when the kids “decided” it was time to vacation with us, Ixtapa was the better location for fun in the sun. We loved our family vacation at Club Med. The rooms were remodeled not long ago, adding bright colors, tech touches, and locks, while the beach and programming stayed as wonderful as ever. Club Med Ixtapa Pacific has something for everyone, whether it’s a baby club or a teen program, day and night activities on the beach, a fabulous tennis center, or the trapeze, which quite a few of us (myself included) tried again and again. And the best part is that it’s all-inclusive, meaning that you only pay for the extra excursions that you decide to take; all meals, all snacks, and even the ultra-smooth reposados are included in the price. Request a room that’s not too close to the beach for a bit more quiet. If you have little kids, there are accommodations close to their activities that will make your life even easier. Do remember to schedule a dinner for the adults at La Luna Azul, a separate restaurant with waiter service, set in the middle of the garden. Incredibly indulgent.

Ixtapa itself has a series of beaches, tucked into coves; a marina; a Dolphin Encounter where you can swim with these amazing creatures; architecturally striking hotels; and condos and beach houses should you decide that you’d rather have more space at a more reasonable price. It’s not small-village authentic like Zihua, but it’s definitely a Mexican experience. Try some of the smaller, local restaurants as a change of pace from the all-you-can-eat Club Med buffets.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Time to Drink with Mad Men, Finally! Sunday March 25

It’s finally time for Mad Men. I’ve had my fill of Desperate Housewives’ shenanigans and pseudo-drama, dysfunctional families with Shameless and Modern Family, and trials and tribulations with Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice. And, while I still love everything about The Good Wife, it’s Mad Men that I’m salivating for.

The long-awaited premiere of Mad Men, Season Five is finally on Sunday, March 27 at 9pm.

How does this relate to Travel and Food Notes? Easy. It’s time to get ready with a drink. With thoughts of joining Don and Roger over oysters at The Oyster Bar or late-night drinks at The Roosevelt Hotel, I’ve put together a list of cocktail fixes throughout Manhattan that will get you ready for another season of Mad Men madness.

P.J. Clarke’s: For the past 125 years, this Manhattan saloon has entertained hordes of advertising and other business execs. Peggy had a drink here, maybe two, as you might recall. This is a bastion of beer, martinis, and burgers, and maybe some less-successful first dates. I’d order a dry, Vermouth martini, with two olives. How about you? 915 Third Avenue, 212-317-1616

Temple Bar: The glamorous oak bar in NoHo is known for its extensive drink list peppered with all the classics. Imagine yourself sitting with Don among the beautiful velvet curtains sipping an Old Fashioned or with Peggy Olsen as she tries a Brandy Alexander for the first time. 322 Lafayette St, 212-925-4242

The Monkey Bar: Enter the landmark Hotel Elysée (once known as the “easy lay”) where guests like Joe DiMaggio and Marlon Brandon used to stay. Step inside the great piano bar just off the lobby with its iconic monkey mural. You can just picture Roger downing a Manhattan or two before heading for a room upstairs. Hotel Elysée, 60 E 54th St, 212-753-1066

King Cole Bar: Once a bastion of cigar-smoking power brokers or wannabes like Ken Cosgrove, the King Cole Bar in the elegant St. Regis Hotel is the birthplace of the Bloody Mary (known here as the Red Snapper). This classic bar also is known for its famous mural, “Old King Cole” by Maxfield Parrish. St. Regis Hotel, 2 E 55th St, 212-753-4500

21 Club: Famous for its Prohibition-era speakeasy status, this restaurant has attracted every president since FDR (except George W. Bush) to dine or imbibe. Come for a martini just like James Bond in 007 or try New York Magazine’s recommendation, a Southside, the rum and mint cocktail invented here. 21 W 52nd St, 212-582-7200

Campbell Apartment: This luxurious lounge in Grand Central Terminal will surely bring you back to another era. The space, once used as an office for New York financier John Campbell, still exudes the same sleek, refinement with its low lighting, rich woodwork and beamed ceiling. We’d recommend the Prohibition Punch for aptly named Pete Campbell. 15 Vanderbilt Ave, 212-953-0409

Bemelmans Bar: Some things never go out of style. Tommy Rowles has been the bartender here for 51 years and has even poured bourbon on the rocks for President Truman. Live piano music, enchanting murals of animals by Ludwig Bemelmans of Madeline fame, plus formally dressed waiters make this an Upper East Side landmark. The perfectly chilled and poured martini comes in a shaker with enough liquor for a potent drink and a half, and the banquettes are perfect for cuddling. The Carlyle Hotel, 35 E 76th St, 212-744-1600

The Blue Bar at the Algonquin: Once the hot spot for literary geniuses like Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley, The Blue Bar is filled with Al Hirschfield’s artwork depicting a variety of Broadway shows. The cozy bar with its blue upholstery is known for its Algonquin Cocktail, a mix of whiskey, dry vermouth, and pineapple juice. It’s reputed that the literary ghosts of times past will even sit with you to provide inspiration and absorb the black-tie service. The Algonquin Hotel, 59 W 44th St, 212-840-6800

Sardi’s: Since 1921, this legendary restaurant known for the celebrity caricatures adorning its walls has served as the spot to head to before or after theater. It’s also a favorite rendezvous spot for Don Draper and his lady friends like the sultry Mrs. Barrett. To behave like a true “mad man,” book a table on Thursdays and Fridays for jazz and cabaret and skip the cocktail; a bottle of Dom Perignon is more in keeping with the mood. 234 W 44th St, 212-221-8440

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Need a Ski Fix: Check out Utah!

If you’re frustrated by the lack of skiing most of the US has experienced this winter, we suggest travelling to “The Greatest Snow on Earth” for the weekend at one or more of Utah’s 14 ski resorts. Never suffering from a lack of snow (they usually have more than 500 inches of dry, fluffy powder on the slopes each year), there are seven ski resorts located within one hour of Salt Lake City, a direct flight from many US cities. If you choose an early morning flight, you’ll be able to hit the slopes by early afternoon. Some of the resorts are offering all-inclusive vacation packages through the winter months – great deals to help add some snow back to a virtually snow-less winter for most of us.

Perfect for Romance: Sundance Resort
Sundance Resort's “Table for Two” deal is a perfect way to enjoy winter. Through April 8, this romantic getaway promises indulgence, adrenaline, and relaxation all in one weekend, with two free all-day ski passes, daily complimentary breakfast, and dinner.Prices start at $349 for the package.A favorite for romance and pampering, Sundance Resort is a beautifully decorated mountain cottage with its own spa. Non-skiers can attend a jewelry or pottery class at the Art Shack.

Perfect for Families: The Lodges at Deer Valley Resort
The Lodges are great for a family ski holiday. This luxury rustic resort has both hotel rooms as well as 1-3 bedroom condominiums, each with distinct architecture and elegant décor. It’s cozy and perfect for family bonding with a three-story fireplace in the lobby, an on-site hot tub and outdoor heated pool. They make it easy for you, too, with a coffee bar to rev you up for your downhills, daily complimentary hot breakfast buffet, WiFi and an in-town shuttle service. If you don’t have the gear, the ski rental shop will take care of your needs. Skiers and non-skiers also have access to the resort’s onsite fitness center. If you book Deer Valley’s “Exceptional Value Package,” you’ll receive 25% off lodging and adult lift tickets from April 1-8. Even better, if you purchase two adult day tickets, children 12 and under ski for free. Check online for the daily ski conditions and deals.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Philadelphia Flower Show Starts Today! - Special Promotion with Van Gogh Exhibit at Museum of Art

I can almost taste spring just thinking about one of my favorite Philly events of the year, the Philadelphia International Flower Show. I may be a diehard Red Sox fan, making me partial due to our interleague "rivalry," but Philly holds a special place in my heart as home to one of my alma maters. Baseball aside, you don't need to fly out to the Pacific to enjoy some tropical blooms, as Philly is welcoming our fiftieth state with this year's theme "Hawaii: Islands of Aloha." There’s a lot to look forward to from the world's largest lettuce wall, to a 25-foot-high waterfall cascading into an exotic garden, to the grand entrance constructed from 2,000 orchids. The show starts today and runs through next Sunday, March 11.

After a day (or perhaps an entire weekend) of taking in these floral wonders, you can also feast your eyes on many of Vincent Van Gogh’s masterpieces with the new Up Close exhibit at The Philadelphia Museum of Art. Take advantage of the special combo ticket that showcases both of these fantastic events: purchase your Flower Show ticket online and you’ll receive 10% off on a timed ticket to see the Van Goghs. If you miss the Flower Show, you can still see the Van Gogh exhibit, which runs through May 6. This is the exhibit’s only showing in the U.S., another great reason to visit Philadelphia NOW.

General admission for the Flower Show is $27 for adults, $20 for students, and $15 for children. Show revenues will support the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and more specifically City Harvest. Tickets can be purchased online. Pennsylvania Convention Center (12th & Arch streets).

Sunday, March 4; 8am - 9:30pm
Monday - Friday, March 5-9: 10am - 9:30pm
Saturday, March 10; 8am - 9:30pm
Sunday, March 11; 8am - 6pm